The Weekend Wanderer: 25 May 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

Karamles“The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East: An ancient faith is disappearing from the lands in which it first took root. At stake is not just a religious community, but the fate of pluralism in the region.” – Emma Green offers a stellar piece of reporting at The Atlantic on the situation that I have discussed often with my friends in the Middle East, both while visiting there and when they have visited here. There is a crisis in the Middle East of Christians fleeing their homelands for a variety of reasons.

 

Back Row America

“Back Row America” – Chris Arnade at First Things: “For many back row Americans, the only places that regularly treat them like humans are churches. The churches are everywhere, small churches that have come in and taken over a space and light it up on Sundays and Wednesdays. They walk inside the church, and immediately they meet people who get them. The preachers and congregants inside may preach to them, even judge their past decisions, but they don’t look down on them. They have walked the walk and know the shit they are going through, not from a book, not from a movie, not from an article, not from a study, but from their own lives or the lives of their friends. They look like them, and they get them. There are rules to follow if you join, but they don’t require having your paperwork in order or having proper ID. They don’t require getting grilled about this and that. They say, ‘Enter as you are,’ letting forgiveness wash away a past that many want gone.”

India-election“Why Indian Leader Modi’s Big Win is an ‘Absolute Tragedy’ for Christians” – From Open Doors: “Since Modi came to power in 2014, India has risen from number 28 to number 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch Listthe annual list that measures the 50 places around the world where it’s hardest to follow Jesus. Under his leadership, Hindu nationalist attacks against Christians have risen, believers are given fewer rights in some areas and the government is frequently accused of turning a blind eye to brutal attacks against religious minorities like Christians. Open Doors’ local partners recorded 147 incidents of violence against Christians in India in 2014, but they have recorded 216 violent incidents in India in the first quarter of 2019 alone, including two murders.”

 

90341“Lessons on Christian Rhetoric from Five of its Greatest Practitioners” – Erin Straza interviews James E. Beitler III on his new book Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church. There, Beitler examines the rhetorical strategies of C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson in their oral and written communication.

 

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset“After Technopoly” – Alan Jacobs reflects in The New Atlantis on Neil Postman’s assessment of “technopoly” with some help from Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski and English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. With the fine distinction between technological core and mythological core, Jacobs’ concludes: “Technopoly is a system that arises within a society that views moral life as an application of rules but that produces people who practice moral life by habits of affection, not by rules. (Think of Silicon Valley social engineers who have created and capitalized upon Twitter outrage mobs.) Put another way, technopoly arises from the technological core of society but produces people who are driven and formed by the mythical core.”

 

Marilynne Robinson“Pushing Back Against Marilynne Robinson’s Theology” – Speaking of Marilynne Robinson, this essay by Jessica Hooten Wilson offers a thoughtful critique of Robinson’s approach to Christian faith. While I deeply enjoy Robinson’s writing, particularly her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, there seems to be at times an uncritical reading of her work within Christian circles. Wheaton College’s theology conference two years ago was entirely focused on her work, producing a book of appreciation and critique entitled Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson.

 

7d8acac56“Vacation is Good For Your Health” – “If you feel like you need a vacation, you’re almost certainly right. Americans get far fewer paid days off than workers in pretty much any other industrialized democracy, and the time we actually take off has declined significantly, from 20.3 days in 1987 to 17.2 days in 2017….people who take more of their allotted vacation time tend to find their work more meaningful. Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus. And time not taken depresses more than individual career prospects: In 2017, the average U.S. worker left six paid vacation days unused, which works out to 705 million days of travel nationally, enough to support 1.9 million travel-related jobs.” So, take a vacation this summer.

 

great-day-of-his-wrath“A Revolution of Time” –  Paul Kosmin takes us on a journey through time to the cataclysmic beginning of marking time as we know it. “Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. We are confident that a century ago it was 1919, and in 1,000 years it will be 3019, if there is anyone left to name it. . . .Now, imagine inhabiting a world without such a numbered timeline for ordering current events, memories and future hopes. For from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles.”

 

90711“1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left a Church Over Abuse” – “Surrounded by revelations of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, younger Christians are more keen to recognize sexual abuse—and less likely to put up with it. According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously. That’s twice as many as the 5 percent of all churchgoers who have done the same. Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct.”

 

age of fear.jpeg“Age of Fear” – John Wilson, editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, wants to talk about fear. In his own inimitable style, Wilson does so in First Things by interviewing himself about fear based on a tweet that he made earlier this month. In this self-interview, Wilson tracks through a number of books and articles he has been reading on the topic, including a piece in The Weekly Standard that I referenced in an earlier edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” which you also might enjoy reading, “Fear Factor,” which is an extended review of Martha Nussbaum’s The Monarchy of Fear.

 

Music: Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken,” outtake from MTV Unplugged in 1994; originally from the album Oh Mercy.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Good News of New Beginnings [The Good News of Jesus]

Jesus Series GFX_App SquareAs we continued our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Eastbrook Church, I continued the themes of our series “The Good News of Jesus.” This second weekend, we explored four post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to Mary, the disciples as a group, Thomas, and Peter in John 20:11-21:25. Each of these stories gives us insight into the ways that the resurrection of Jesus intersects with our ordinary lives, in such things as grief, fear, doubt, and failure.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Read More »

Freed from the Fear of Death

sri lanka church bombings.jpg

It was sadly ironic to read about the terrible church bombings yesterday morning even as I prepared as a pastor for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Recent times have seen not only church bombings but church buildings burning, whether in Louisiana or Paris. Every Christian knows that the word ‘church’ means people and not buildings.  Even so, it is beyond unsettling to see our houses of worship violated in such harsh ways. Still, the hope of the resurrection sets us free from fear, both in our physical circumstances and against the ultimate enemy, that is death. Here is an excerpt from my message at Eastbrook Church this weekend that reflected on the freedom Jesus brings us from the fear of death.


 

image 6 - Amphitheatre of El Djem.jpg

Some of the most striking stories of the early church after the time of the New Testament come from the persecution under the Roman Empire. In contemporary Tunisia, in North Africa, the church was strong, but suffered greatly. Perhaps the most famous story from the early 3rd century comes when a noblewoman, Perpetua, who was a Christian, and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor. That oath implied allegiance to the emperor over any other being, but also acknowledge him as a kind of god. Perpetua’s commitment to Jesus as Lord and God led her to a radical decision, which came at the price of her life. She and her household servant, Felicitas, ended up in the gladiatorial ring with wild animals, which rent them to pieces. They chose that fate rather than to forsake the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

How could these women be so unafraid of death? When we largely seem motivated by avoidance of death and suffering, what was it that could set them free from the fear of death?

I don’t believe it was because death was less scary to them, or that they were so much more courageous than the average person. Rather, there was a greater reality overpowering the all-consuming fear of death. And that overpowering reality is found in Jesus’ resurrection.

So many of us live our lives afraid of pain and the finality that is death. Others of us scurry through life knowing we won’t get another chance, feeling the urgency of our days. We all live under a universal death-sentence where the question is not “if” we’re going to die, but “when” will we die. Death tries to keep us in its grip, apart from God’s best for us as human beings.

But it is not the end of the story.

The resurrection of Jesus tells us that not only the power of evil and the prison of sin have been overcome, but also the sting of death has been destroyed by Jesus Christ at the Cross. Paul the Apostle, wrote about that in this way in a letter to an early church in the city of Corinth:

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

The empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection tell us there is hope in the midst of death. We do not have to live in fear of death because Jesus could not be held back by death. It is not His Master, but rather He is the Master of all things.

Death is not the end of Jesus’ story. And death does not have to be the end of our story.

The Good News of Jesus

Jesus Series GFX_16x9 Title

This weekend, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Eastbrook Church, we will begin a two-week message series exploring “The Good News of Jesus.” Drawing upon the post-resurrection accounts within the Gospel of John, we want to bring into sharper focus the ways in which Jesus brings good news to the world.

April 20/21 [Easter]: “The Good News of the Resurrected One” – John 20:1-10, 30-31
The resurrection of Jesus from death brings good news into our lives. As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, we will also explore three themes of how this is good news: light overwhelming darkness, freedom overcoming prisons, and life overpowering death.

April 27/28: “The Good News of New Beginnings” – John 20:11-21:25
After Jesus’ resurrection, John offer a series of encounters that Jesus has with real people. Each of these encounters sheds light on the way in which Jesus’ resurrection is good news: God’s presence in loss (Mary), God’s peace in fear (disciples in the upper room), God’s guidance in doubt (Thomas), and God’s restoration in failure (Peter).

The Weekend Wanderer: 29 September 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

83478“She Shaped Me: 10 Exemplars of Faith” – “Throughout history, God has used faithful women in powerful ways for the good of the church and the world. They are women of character and virtue, women who struggled and made mistakes, women who took risks and devoted their lives to answering God’s call. Above all, they are women who deeply loved God. Here, ten contemporary women reflect on the examples of ten women from Christian history who have significantly influenced their own faith in Jesus.”

 

fear“Fear Factor”John Wilson reviews Martha Nussbaum’s The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis in his typically insightful fashion.  “The Monarchy of Fear is deeper and more subtle than many current accounts of fear, but at the same time (as the title suggests) it is even more sweeping in its assertion of fear’s role in our common life: ‘It is both chronologically and causally primary, getting its teeth into us very early and then coloring the rest of our lives to a greater or lesser degree.'”

 

_103598823_man2“Ethiopia’s Meskel festival: Bonfires, robes and crosses” – Ethiopians are celebrating the annual Meskel festival, the first big festival of the Ethiopian religious year. According to Ethiopian Orthodox Christian tradition, the national holiday marks the finding of the cross that Jesus was crucified on. Thousands celebrated the eve of the festival, known as Demera, by gathering in Meskel Square in the heart of the capital city, Addis Ababa.

 

larry norman“The Unlikely Endurance of Christian Rock” – Kelefa Sanneh reviews and interacts with religious historian Randall J. Stephens’ exploration of the relationship between Christianity and rock and roll in The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘n’ Roll. Walking through the history of American Christianity’s relationship with culture, Sanneh touches upon Martin Luther King, Jr., Larry Norman, contemporary worship music, and Imagine Dragons, just to name a few. And if that last piques your interest, well, you may just want to read the article over at The New Yorker.

 

83607“Azusa Pacific Okays Gay Romance (But Not Sex and Marriage)” – Azusa Pacific University (APU) made changes to their human sexuality policy that attempts to be more general and not shine the spotlight in a discriminatory manner on same-sex attraction or those with gender dysphoria. However, it seems the impulse creates a tension within the statement in relation to what is allowed and what is ideal that is not necessary. This further highlights the challenge to a united stance within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) on such issues. “APU dropped the section on ‘Same-Sex Relationships’ from its Student Standards of Conduct. It earlier read: ‘9.0 Same-Sex Relationships: Students may not engage in a romanticized same-sex relationship.’ In addition, it made several revisions to its sexuality statement.” You can read further reporting on this, including various opinions on its significance, and the original statement at Christianity Today.

 

painIn light of the challenges to the church and failures of leadership, Alan Jacobs’ brief reflections on the difference between inconsistency and hypocrisy are invaluable. “We’re all inconsistent (in my case quite often): we hold certain values but don’t live up to them all the time; we want always to act in certain ways but manage to act in those ways only occasionally. That’s the universal human experience. Hypocrisy is something different. Hypocrisy is deceptive: the hypocrite pretends to certain virtues that he doesn’t hold and doesn’t even really want to hold.”

 

autotune-header-edit2“How Auto-Tune Revolutionized the Sound of Popular Music” – Over at Pitchfork, Simon Reynolds takes us his readers into “An in-depth history of the most important pop innovation of the last 20 years, from Cher’s “Believe” to Kanye West to Migos.” I have occasionally enjoyed the bizarre uses of auto-tune, such as Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak or Bon Iver’s recent work with it, but usually you will find me bemoaning the ways that auto-tune has ruined music forever. From what I read, Reynolds and I could probably commiserate about this together.

 

atlanta“Busiest Airport’s in the World” – “It’s not just you: Airports really are getting busier.
Close to 104 million passengers passed though Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2017, making it the world’s busiest passenger airport for another year.
That’s according to 2017 travel data released Thursday by Airports Council International.
Globally, there were significant increases in passenger numbers, air cargo traffic and total aircraft movements.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

When We Feel Like Running Away

There are times in our lives when we feel like running away. I still remember when I was an elementary school kid and one of the bullies came after me during a recess football game. I definitely felt like running away…and I did! As fast as I could go.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve encountered much more threatening things that make me and others want to run away. I’ve seen a father of four crushed by lack of work. I’ve seen parents helplessly lose a child they love. I’ve seen a single mom struggle to parent teenage children in rebellion. I’ve seen students feeling overwhelmed by confusing decisions. I’ve seen churches challenged by dire situations. These things and more can make us feel like running away.

In Psalm 11, we hear of a similar situation. The writer is struggling with the advice from a friend to simply run away:Read More »

Worry and Faith (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Worry and Faith,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series “The Kingdom Life.” The text for this week is Luke 12:22-34.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you experienced the greatest worry in your life? How did you deal with it?
  2. This weekend we continue “The Kingdom Life” series by looking at Luke 12:22-34. After beginning your study in prayer, ask God to speak to you, and then read those passages aloud.
  3. This teaching from Jesus begins with a strong exhortation not to worry. What does Jesus say not to worry about in 12:22, 29?
  4. Jesus offers two examples from nature – the birds and the wildflowers – for His disciples. What do these two examples tell us about worry and faith?
  5. What does Jesus tell us about God’s thoughts and actions on our behalf in relation to our worries (12:24, 30-31)?
  6. How have you learned to give your worry to God? Take a moment to read Philippians 4:6-7. How does this illustrate the connection between prayer and worry?
  7. Jesus’ summary statement in 12:31 is well-known. What do you think it means?
  8. In 12:32-34, Jesus exhorts His disciples to not fear, but to do something else instead. What does He call them to do?
  9. What do you think it means to live as a reflection of Jesus’ words in 12:34?
  10. What is one way that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, discuss this together.

 


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we arranged a daily reading plan through this series. You can also join in with the daily devotional here. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Monday, May 8                     Luke 12:22-26
Tuesday, May 9                    Matthew 6:25-27
Wednesday, May 10             Psalm 147:1-11
Thursday, May 11                 Luke 12:27-34
Friday, May 12                      Matthew 6:28-34